The digital era is characterized by the widespread diffusion of information technologies (IT) offering great degrees of malleability in how their features may be interpreted and used. While there are immediate advantages to leveraging the malleability of IT, this could also prove a source of confusion for lay users who are faced with multiple interpretations of what IT can do. Despite growing evidence of this phenomenon, current research lacks the concepts and tools to adequately capture its impact on IT acceptance, adoption, and use. In this paper, we first deploy the “perceived functional ambiguity” (PFA) construct, describing its dimensionality and relationships with measures. Then, we develop and validate the corresponding multidimensional measurement instrument. Finally, we test the effect of the construct across three studies assessing how users perceive social media (N=419), smartphones (N=411) and smart speakers (N=346). Our results suggest that ambiguity has a double-edged sword effect on users’ perception of IT: greater levels of ambiguity are associated with greater utilitarian and hedonic value, but they also entail substantial learning costs. This research contributes to advancing our theoretical understanding of IT use by introducing ambiguity as a factor underpinning contemporary IT use.
Pillet, Jean-Charles; CARILLO, Kevin; Vitari, Claudio; and Pigni, Federico, "What Does It Do? Theorizing Functional Ambiguity as a Factor Influencing User Perceptions of Information Technology" (2020). ECIS 2020 Research Papers. 108.
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